Robotics teams roll to state

Pac-Bots and Twisted Metal begin weekend of competition


CJ Hilgaertner

Jeremy Hancock works on his team’s robot tonight. State competition begins tomorrow.

By James Favot, News Editor

Twisted Metal won the Control Award in league play. They are advancing to state.
Pac-Bots placed 6th at the qualifying tournament and advanced to state.

The tech team is active and hard at work as usual this year. Two of Tigard High’s four robotics teams, the Pac-Bots and Twisted Metal, are advancing to the Oregon State Championship at Liberty High School this Sunday. Meanwhile, the Jury Riggers are collecting school supplies for elementary schools in Puerto Rico, and representatives all four teams are eagerly waiting to discover whether or not they will be admitted as members of the honorable robotics Dean’s List.

As part of the selection process for the state tournament, every robotics team in Oregon participated in five qualification rounds and were ranked according to how well they performed. Although neither the Pac-Bots or Twisted Metal got to the highest positions of the leaderboard, they were chosen to advance to the State Championship for different reasons.

Even though the Pac-Bots ranked 23rd place at the end of the qualification rounds, they were selected to be part of a finalist alliance because of the unique design characteristics of their robot, specifically the arm with a wingspan of four feet with a claw at the end. The arm allowed them to score in the last 30 seconds of the match, securing many points for their alliance partners without this feature. At the end of the day, they were ranked sixth overall and received an automatic bid to the state championship tournament.

The Pac-Bots were mostly composed of first-time robotics students this year, which created some difficulties. Chris Mooney, one of the Pac-Bot coaches, explained that a lack of prior experience made somewhat harder for team members to efficiently communicate with each other during their work. “There’s always room for improvement… but that’s a big part of learning,” Mooney said.

All the team members are developing a better connection with each other while working together. Freshman Juan Saucedo says his role in the team has helped him develop better leadership skills. “I’ve become more open with people,” Saucedo said. Moving to state is an incredible victory and will be a great boost to the team’s morale moving forward. Team Captain junior Cameron Doughty was selected by the Pac-Bots to be the team’s nominee for the Dean’s List award. 

Twisted Metal, ranking seventh place, also won an award allowing them to head to state. During the autonomous phases of the competition, when the robot was only allowed to move on its own with no human control, Twisted Metal’s robot showed an excellent ability to sense its environment and complete tasks on its own. “The judges really saw how intricate and unique our driving system was,” junior Derek Williams, his team’s Dean’s List candidate, said. Twisted Metal received the Control Award for their robot’s superb self-operation, giving them an automatic advance to state.

Like the Pac-Bots, Twisted Metal also has some newcomers to the team. Senior Katrina Yang is on the software division of Twisted Metal. As this is her first year involved in the robotics program, it was a challenge for her in the beginning to get deeply involved with the others. “I felt like I didn’t really have anything to do,” Yang said, “but our team is really good at collaborating with each other.” She quickly found opportunities to work with her team members on the robot that she now helps to program, and the teamwork has paid off well.

While Tigard’s other two teams will not be at the State Championship, one member from each of those teams is working toward a similarly prestigious achievement. Justin Lemke of Gears in Motion and James Shea of the Jury Riggers will be present at the state tournament, where it will be announced whether they have been selected as Dean’s List finalists. They will be joining Doughty and Williams as Dean’s List candidates, recognizing the most diligent and dedicated students during this robotics season.

Lemke and Shea were selected by their peers based on their work and contribution to their teams. For example, Lemke was a lead programmer who also took over the captain’s duties when it was needed, so his team chose him as a contestee for the Dean’s List.

“It’s a great honor to be nominated,” Lemke said. “At the very least, it’s an honor to make it that far.” If Lemke and Shea are chosen as finalists they will travel to the World Championships in Houston, Texas, where they will await the judges’ decision to learn if they have been officially inducted onto the Dean’s List. They will also have the opportunity to meet some of the highest officials in FIRST, the organization that holds these robotics competitions.

Aside from robotics, the Jury Riggers have kept themselves occupied this year with a Puerto Rico assistance project they started in September. Inspired by a fellow robotics team in Texas that donated money toward hurricane relief in Florida, the Jury Riggers began preparing school supplies to send to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria struck. If all goes according to plan, the supplies will be ready to deliver by the end of March this year. All the robotics teams have also been going to elementary schools and science fairs to encourage students to join their robotics teams.

If the Pac-Bots or Twisted Metal forge past state to the West Super-Regionals, they’ll be just one level away from reaching the World Championships. Whether it involves heading to the Super-Regionals or having one of their members added to the Dean’s List, the robotics team has a lot of potential for success this season. Two teams had made it to state as well in the last season, but unfortunately did not make it to the Super-Regionals. With a resilient attitude and a mind set on victory, everyone’s hopes are high that Tigard will be represented at the World Championships this year.